Sotogrande’s unique river estuary

Sotogrande Guardiaro riverThe River Guadiaro that winds its way through Sotogrande on its journey to the sea is not just a picturesque waterway. It is also an important environmental resource that makes the river estuary and surrounding seabed one of the most unique marine environments in the Mediterranean.

Well known is the fact that the estuary itself is a protected area that has been designated a ‘natural space’. The affected zone is relatively small, occupying an island formed by silt and sediment washed down river on its journey from the Ronda mountains. But its importance belies its size. A unique, environment, it is rich in flora and fauna, especially bird life, while its position on migratory routes sees up to 140 bird species using the wetlands as feeding grounds on their long trip to Africa.

Flamingos, ospreys, royal and imperial herons, little egrets and spoonbills are just some of the birds regularly spotted there, which is why the area was declared a site of special interest.

Protected marine environment
Less well known is that the marine environment of the surrounding area is also protected due to the importance of the feeding grounds, which function as a nursery of a diverse and unique sea fauna.

Originally the area was a rich fishery, but commercial exploitation led to the fishermen moving elsewhere as catches dwindled. Now it is mainly sports anglers who fish these waters, and their low impact methods mean the nursery is recovering, making the 102 hectare reserve important in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.

Guadiaro’s bio-diverse environment
Although dwarfed by nearby reserves such as the Bay of Cádiz (10,579 hectares) and the 8,710 hectares of the Estrecho (Straights of Gibraltar), it punches well above its weight in environmental importance. A unique bio-diverse mix of sea creatures thrive on the nutrients washed downstream by the Guadiaro. Thanks to its location, where Atlantic oceanic waters mingle with those of the Mediterranean, there is nowhere else that is home to quite the same variety of fish and other sea life

The importance of this natural environment has been recognised by the management of Sotogrande, who have recently unveiled ambitious plans for a billion euro investment at La Reserva, pledging to work to keep the development in harmony with nature.

With such important ecological resources close by, it is to be welcomed that the natural environment has been placed high up the agenda at Sotogrande.

By Jackie Cruz - Manifesto · September 24th 2015